It’s the grim post-Parkland massacre version of tag-you’re-it, that now periodic arrest every few weeks–or every few days in some stretches–that briefly, unnecessarily spoils the image of a school because one of its students yet again crosses that line that’s turned juvenile behavior into a criminal act.
The school tagged on Monday, as it was just before Christmas, was Buddy Taylor Middle. The incident this time involved a 13-year-old boy, possibly a special-education student known to have been bullied before, according to what his friend told deputies, and it took place away from the school.
The boy was playing a live video game with two friends last Saturday (Feb. 9), one of those interactive games connecting players on the Internet. It was a so-called Xbox party. The trio began to lose. The boy got mad, and out of nowhere, according to his two friends, “began to yell and shoot up the school this week.” The account is part of the boy’s arrest report. The school was not specified but is presumed to be the one the boy attends: Buddy Taylor. One of his friends told a deputy that the boy “mentioned that he was making a map of the school and he was going to aim down the hallway and just shoot,” the report states.
When one of the two friends was asked if the boy is “known to be a violent person,” in the wording used in the arrest report, the friend replied that the boy–whose full name was in his arrest report, but is not being reproduced here–“has been bullied before and is known to be violent.” (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the sheriff’s office named the boy in its release and on Facebook, beyond the issued arrest report.)
The witness claims the boy also threatened to kill himself.
One of the boys’ mother reported the incident to Cara Cronk, one of two assistant principals at the school, who relayed the information to Tara Millette, one of two deans, who investigated the matter further before involving a school resource officer. (Deciding if and when to take an incident beyond school discipline is in the school administration’s purview as long as the act in question is not criminal: “The Principal of each school is the ultimate decision maker regarding disciplinary issues that result from a non-criminal act,” the school resource deputy contract between the district and the sheriff’s office reads. “Decisions will be made by the Principal based on the District’s Code of Student Conduct. Should the situation become a law enforcement issue, the SRD shall maintain discretion in pursuing criminal charges or alternative options, such as a Juvenile Citation, for incidents that occur on school grounds.”)
Millette verified the account of the incident with the second witness. Millette, Robert Bossardet, the principal, and a school psychologist, and school psychologist convened in a threat-assessment meeting and decided to turn the matter over to law enforcement. Meanwhile, “The student was administratively excused from school until a manifestation meeting is held,” the arrest report states. A district-based manifest determination hearing is what follows a school’s disciplinary action regarding a student and usually involves a meeting of the student’s individualized education program team. That suggests the student in question at Buddy Taylor may be a special education student. The school district does not discuss individual students’ records or disciplinary issues–and would not confirm whether the student is in special education–but the progression of steps described in the arrest report suggests school officials were very deliberate as they wrestled with what steps to take.
The student and his mother reported to school on Wednesday for a previously scheduled meeting. With his mother’s permission, a deputy asked the boy whether he wanted to speak to a deputy and explain the situation. The boy “stated that there wasn’t much to say since he was being charged anyway,” he said, according to the arrest report. The boy “then said that he does say things out of anger, and that he has anger issues.” His mother assured the deputy that he has no access to firearms in the house (though the report does not specify whether that meant there were no firearms in the house).
The student was arrested and charged with making a false report of a bombing, a second-degree felony.
Late Wednesday evening, the sheriff’s office issued a release about the arrest. “We are glad that these students spoke up and let their parents know exactly what was being said on XBOX,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in the release. “We have a zero tolerance policy in Flagler County for threats of violence in our schools. We have been working closely with the School District to remind parents and students about appropriate speech and behavior in schools as well as online.”
In early December, a 14-year-old Buddy Taylor Middle School student was arrested after bringing a handgun to school. The weapon had been stolen from a vehicle on Point Pleasant Drive in Palm Coast.
Earlier this month the sheriff’s office released a public service announcement about just that. You can see it here.